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Lombard fathers rights attorneysMany studies have shown that children do best with both parents in their life. Of course, this is not true for situations involving abuse or domestic violence, but generally, removing one parent from a child’s life is damaging to the well-being of that child. Fortunately, many parents who get divorced or who never marry are able to work out a shared parenting arrangement which includes both parents as full participants in their children’s’ lives. Unfortunately, a new study shows that Illinois fathers are at the bottom of the list when it comes to how much time they spend with their children.

Study Analyzes Shared Parenting Schedules Across the Country

The study, which was piloted by a software company that makes apps for divorced and separated parents, involved a compilation of data regarding the most common parenting time arrangements in each of the fifty states. Through a survey of legal professionals and judicial standards across the country, the researchers were able to calculate the average amount of time parents spend with their children. The study only included cases in which both parents wanted custody of their children, and there were no extenuating circumstances, such as long-distance separation or criminal convictions.

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Lombard family law attorneysMost of us are familiar with at least the basic concept of child custody. In most instances, we realize that the phrase refers to making arrangements for raising a child or children following a divorce or breakup between the parents. While it is possible for non-parents to gain custody of a child, the vast majority of child custody disputes are between a child’s biological parents.

In 2016, sweeping reforms to the family law statutes in Illinois eliminated the official use of the phrase “child custody.” The amendments introduced new terminology that was intended to be less divisive and more cooperative. For many years, parents sought to “win” custody of their children, rather than working together to find the best possible parenting arrangement. Today, the legal concept of child custody in Illinois is known as the allocation of parental responsibilities.

Two Primary Components

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Lombard family law attorneysNo one wants to think about their own mortality, but it is an issue that must be faced eventually. This is especially true if you have minor children. Provisions must be made for them in case the unthinkable happens. While it may seem alarmist, it is actually quite common to draw up a plan or mechanism to ensure that your children are well cared for if you are suddenly removed from the proverbial picture. The most often used method of guaranteeing that stability is to set up a guardianship, but there are other possible options.

Superior Rights Doctrine

As one might assume, if you are married to your children’s mother or father (or once were), Illinois courts will usually grant custody to him or her under the so-called “superior rights doctrine.” There is a general presumption that a biological parent is the best person to raise children, and this will often be followed as long as the parent has not been found unfit. However, there is one doctrine that carries more weight than the superior rights principle, and that is the best interests of the child. Illinois public policy explicitly states that the best interests of the child are the primary concern when ruling on issues in family law, such as parenting time or allocation of parental responsibilities.

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Lombard family law attorneyThe term “parental alienation” refers to the process through which a person psychologically manipulates a child into having ill feelings toward their parent. This most often occurs when parents divorce or separate. Parental alienation is a form of psychological abuse and it can be devastating to both the child and his or her parents. There is even evidence to suggest that a child who has been manipulated in this way will have a higher chance of mental and physical illness. Parental alienation is inexcusable.

Why and How Does Parental Alienation Occur?

Parental alienation most often happens to children whose parents are separating or divorcing. Of course, it can also be an issue for children of parents who were never married to one another. When the parents are in conflict, they can start to bring their child or children into the conflict. A parent who is jealous or angry toward the other parent begins to encourage their child to take “their side.”

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Posted on in Divorce

Lombard family law attorneysSubstance abuse and addiction problems have touched most people’s lives one way or another. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 21.5 million teens and adults fought a substance use disorder in the United States in 2014. If you have ever been close to someone struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, you know that the addiction can become all-consuming. Addicts can end up losing their jobs, resort to criminal activity, and be estranged from those who love them. Others with addiction issues seek professional help and are able to overcome the dependence. If you are married to someone with substance abuse issues, you know the toll those issues can take on the family.

Sometimes, a person who is addicted to drugs or alcohol becomes a danger to themselves or those in his or her household. How much should a spouse tolerate before they end the marriage? Every relationship is different and only the people in it know what is right for them. However, if you are married to an addict, there are a few things worth keeping in mind.

Is Your Partner Willing to Get Help?

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Lombard family law attorneyToday, more and more couples are choosing to forgo marriage for a variety of reasons. Some are political, others economic, and still others simply out of lack of interest in legally validating the relationship. However, there are some areas of the law in which not being married can actually be a hardship, and the paternity of your children is among the most pressing. If you are not married to your child’s mother, it is imperative that you be aware of your rights going forward, especially if you want to be involved in your child’s life.

Establishing Paternity in Illinois

Illinois law defines paternity and the father-child relationship fairly extensively, and it is important to understand how to proceed. The Illinois Parentage Act lays out a list of methods by which a man’s paternity may be acknowledged and legally verified. Generally, paternity is established in Illinois when:

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Posted on in Family Law

Lombard family law attorneysWith the recent change in administration, many LGBTQ parents and family members have expressed concern over the possibility of modifications to current statutes and legal precedents that may affect them and their families adversely. Though many believe such fears unfounded, it is never a bad idea to double-check that all relevant legal documents, including adoption or birth certificates, marriage licenses, and travel documents are in order.

Marriages and Estate Planning

Perhaps the primary concern of many LGBTQ families is the issue of marriage equality. While a Supreme Court decision usually settles a matter, at least for some time, the new administration has given indications that it would like to see 2015’s landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges overturned. While a president cannot unilaterally overturn a Supreme Court decision, he may, in theory, appoint justices who can, and this causes real concern for many. President Trump’s appointment of Justice of Neil Gorsuch seemed to validate this concern among pundits and skeptics.

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Lombard family law attorneyDomestic violence is one of the most common family issues in the United States today, unfortunately, and it has an especially pernicious effect on children. If a parent who has committed domestic violence is permitted to continue seeing his or her children, studies have shown that that child has a greater propensity to perpetuate violence in the future. The state of Illinois considers it a high priority to ensure that children are not exposed to such behavior, and as such, if your spouse has charges or convictions, you may be able to mount a serious challenge to their parental fitness.

Domestic Violence Defined

Illinois’ Domestic Violence Act (DVA) of 1986 defines domestic violence as abuse, both physical and otherwise, as well as “interference with personal liberty or willful deprivation.” It also makes a point of identifying a victim as any family or household member, rather than just a spouse. Thus, the law encompasses spouses, but also family members related by blood, people who are (or were) dating or living together, and co-parents of a child who are unmarried. So, for example, if the mother or father of your child abuses you, the DVA still applies in your case, whether you are married or not.

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Posted on in Family Law

Lombard family law attorneysThere are many reasons that a couple may choose not to marry. Some have become disheartened with the increasing prevalence of divorce and, therefore, do not see the point in marrying. Others want to maintain their single status for political, religious, or personal reasons. Some same-sex couples live in parts of the country where same-sex marriage was not legal until very recently. Only the individuals in a relationship can decide if marriage is right for them, but it is important to know that there are steps unmarried couples can take to protect their rights and assets.

A Cohabitation Agreement Can Protect You in the Case of a Breakup

Common law marriages have not been legally recognized in Illinois since 1905. This means that two people can share their lives together, live in the same house, help each other pay bills, and raise children together without being considered legally married. Couples that live together but are not married do not have the same rights and protection under the law as those couples that are married. Those who split up after sharing a life together may find themselves in a legal mess. For example, if the couple has brought property, real estate, expensive home goods or vehicles together, it is difficult to establish how this property should be divided following a breakup.

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Lombard family law attorneyIf you are receiving child support payments from your child’s other parent, you may have come to rely on such payments. The payments you receive are intended to help you provide for your child’s basic needs, including housing, food, clothes, and other necessities of daily living. There is a good chance that you child support order also included considerations for your child’s educational and medical expenses, such as the cost of tuition, health insurance, non-covered care and other concerns. As your child grows and his or her needs change, however, you may need to revisit your child support order to see if a modification is needed.

Basic Child Support Calculations

Under Illinois law, a baseline determination for child support is done by taking into account the number of children to be supported and the supporting parent’s income. By law, either or both parent could be required to pay child support, but, in practice, such obligations are typically assigned to the parent with fewer parental responsibilities and/or less parenting time. If the parents share parental responsibilities and parenting time equally, the higher-earning spouse is likely to be required to make payments.

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DuPage County family law attorneysFamily courts in Illinois prefer to see both parents cooperating to raise their child following a divorce, separation or breakup. Regardless of the issues between the adults, the child’s needs should always come first. In most cases, however, shared parenting responsibilities do not usually translate into equal parenting time. One parent is typically designated to have primary residential responsibilities, providing a primary physical address for the child to be used for school enrollment and other considerations. If your child lives with your ex more than half of the time, you may be wondering about your rights if your ex decides he or she wants to move out of Illinois.

New Laws Regarding Child Removal

For many years, if a parent subject to a child custody agreement wanted to move out of Illinois, he or she was required to get the permission of the court. Moving a child out of state was referred to as the removal of the child. Last year’s sweeping changes to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, however, eliminated the term “removal”—and “child custody,” incidentally—and created the new legal concept of relocation.

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Lombard divorce attorneyWhen divorce becomes more of an eventuality than a possibility, you will need to begin thinking about the attorney you will hire to protect your interests. Technically speaking, you are not required to retain legal counsel during a divorce, but to proceed without one can be a costly mistake.

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of attorneys to choose from in the greater Chicago area, so how do you know which one is right for you? During your search, you should compile a list of several law firms or lawyers whose values seem to align with yours, then schedule an appointment to meet with them. It is also helpful to prepare a list of questions that can help you determine the best choice. These may include:

  • How long have you practiced family law? – While young lawyers certainly deserve a chance to prove themselves, there is no substitute for experience. It is also worth finding out how much of the attorney's practice is dedicated to divorce and family-related matters. If your candidate is a personal injury lawyer who handles one or two divorce cases per year, you may want to look elsewhere.
  • Will I speak directly with you each time I call? – This question addresses two concerns at the same time. First, how accessible will your attorney be? Your divorce can be slowed considerably if you are not able to communicate well with your lawyer. The second concern is that of the division of labor. Is your attorney planning to remain active in your case or will legwork be handed off to an associate, paralegal, or secretary?
  • How much do you charge? – Again, this question includes multiple components. Some attorneys offer divorce representation for a flat rate, which can be suddenly disregarded later as your case becomes more complex. Most, however, charge an hourly rate, so it is important to know what constitutes billable time and what the smallest billing increment is. For example, if you attorney says that time spent answering your email is billable, will he or she charge in increments of 6 minutes—tenths of an hour—or 15 minutes—quarters of an hour? The difference between the two can add up quickly.
  • How committed are you to reaching an amicable settlement? – Studies have shown that a negotiated divorce agreement is often more stable and easier to follow than a judgment issued by the court. If such an agreement can be reached, you and your attorney should remain committed to the process until a resolution is found. Some attorneys are quick to push for litigation, while others all but refuse to enter the courtroom. By asking questions, you can ascertain where your candidate stands and whether the intended approach matches your needs.

Of course, there are dozens of other questions you may have. These are just a few of the most basic ones to get the ball rolling.

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Lombard family law attorneyMany divorced or separated parents often struggle with their new reality of limited time with their children. This is quite often the case for a parent who has been granted a relatively lesser amount of parenting time compared to the other. While you may understand logically that creating an equal parenting time schedule is not truly possible in most cases, knowing that does not make it any easier to be away from your children. There is a way, though, to include extra possible parenting time in your agreement with your ex. It is called the right of first refusal and, when utilized properly, this right can offer both parents and the child substantial benefits.

Understanding First Refusal

When you have precious little time with your child, you may be looking for any and all possible ways to see him or her more often. Changing permanent arrangement or schedule can be rather complicated, but including the right of first refusal is fairly simple. When the right of first refusal is part of your parenting agreement, it means that your child’s other parent is required to offer you the chance to care for the child when he or she would otherwise need to make other childcare arrangements. In short, this means additional parenting time opportunities for you. As the name implies, you have the right to refuse the opportunity, but if parenting time is at a premium, may be unlikely to turn down such a chance.

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Lombard divorce lawyersOften when people hear the term mediation in the realm of divorce, they automatically think of the tense arguments and conflicts that typically surround the end of a marriage. While disagreements can certainly turn ugly in the midst of divorce, many marriages actually end civilly and peacefully, with minimal conflict between spouses.

However, for those who are having a difficult time seeing eye to eye on certain issues, tension can arise and the challenge to come to a settlement can create a very bumpy transition for the entire family. This is where divorce mediation in family law comes in. Mediation has a number of advantages, but it is particularly helpful in a number of ways.

Better Communication

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guardian ad litem, Lombard family law attorneyWhile many divorcing parents are able to reach a reasonable agreement regarding parental responsibilities and parenting time, many others simply are not. In some cases, the parents are unable to put aside their personal differences and focus on the needs of the child. In others, each parent may have the absolute best intentions but are having difficulty compromising with one another. When proceedings for the allocation of parental responsibilities or other child-related concerns encounter such obstacles, the court may appoint a specially-trained lawyer to serve as guardian ad litem (GAL) for the duration of the case.

The GAL’s Role

A guardian ad litem acts essentially as an extension of the court. He or she is granted investigative powers to study the circumstances of the family and the child in question. The GAL may interview the child, each parent, siblings, and other relevant parties, as well as review court transcripts, financial documents, and any other evidence that may be helpful. Upon completing the investigation, the GAL prepares a recommendation for the court, based on what he or she believes would be the ideal situation for the child.

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Posted on in Divorce

divorce, holiday season, illinois divorce attorneysThe winter holidays, for many, are a time filled with joy, laughter, and family get-togethers. At the same time, you may feel like you are being pulled in a million directions, with presents to buy and wrap, food to prepare, and, often, travel arrangements to be made. That is not even to mention concerns related to work, school, or other obligations. For those who are in the midst of a divorce, however, the holidays can seem almost empty, and devoid of the happiness they once promised. If you are going through a divorce, there are some thing you will probably want to keep in mind.

Stay Involved

As tempting as it may be to sit home and to avoid the company of others, consider pushing yourself to go out and interact. The feelings of loneliness and sadness are a natural part of the divorce process, and there is nothing wrong with you for feeling that way. But isolating yourself during the holidays may not be the best solution. Make the effort to see family and friends, even it is not the most comfortable. Allow yourself to be distracted, even if just for a little while, and if loved ones offer support, do your best to accept it graciously.

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child representative, family law, Illinois family law attorneysA few weeks ago, a post on this blog discussed the role and responsibilities of a court-appointed guardian ad litem, or GAL. However, the GAL is just one of several appointments that may be made by the court to assist with child-related legal proceedings, such as those for custody, visitation, or support. In place of a GAL, the court may appoint either an attorney for the child or a child representative, two roles that may sound very similar, but are, in fact, quite different from one another.

Attorney for the Child

A lawyer appointed as an attorney for the child is exactly that. He or she is the assigned legal counsel for the child as a separate party to the case. The normal attorney-client rules of confidentiality and procedure apply, meaning that the attorney is bound by his or her client’s wishes, regardless of the ability of the child to recognize their appropriateness. For this reason, an attorney for the child is not very likely to be appointed unless the court identifies that a minor child is mature enough to make considered, reasonable decisions.

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guardian ad litem, Illinois law, Arlington Heights family law attorneyIf the court presiding over your child custody or visitation dispute has appointed a guardian ad litem to your case, it is important to recognize the significance of such an appointment. It is also helpful to understand the guardian ad litem’s role so that you can be prepared to work closely with him or her in the fulfillment of the assigned duties. When utilized properly, a guardian ad litem can be a valuable resource in finding a workable, healthy resolution to any child-related legal matter.

What is a Guardian ad Litem?

Under Illinois law, only a qualified attorney can be appointed as a guardian ad litem (GAL) in family law cases. The attorney must also be properly trained and certified to serve in such a capacity, as required by the county or jurisdiction. Once appointed, the GAL works as an extension of the court and not as legal counsel for any party to the case. He or she is expected to determine a recommended outcome that will serve the best interests of the child and then to present that information to the court as, essentially, an expert witness.

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Posted on in Child Custody

relocation, child removal, Kane County Family Law AttorneyA parent with primary physical custody of his or her child in Illinois will soon be subject to more stringent limitations regarding a move to a new residence. The changes are part of a larger family law overhaul passed by the state legislature earlier this year, and signed in July by Governor Bruce Rauner. Scheduled to take effect in 2016, the new amendment looks to address a loophole of sorts that has existed for years in Illinois law that, as of now, gives a custodial parent the freedom to move anywhere in the state without prior approval.

Two-Parent Involvement

Most of the provisions regarding family law in Illinois emphasize the best interests of a child and the positive impact of a healthy relationship with both parents. In almost every situation regarding custody and visitation, a court is required to consider how its decision will affect the parent-child interaction for both the custodial and non-custodial parent.  The current law does address a parent who wishes to move with the child, but only if the move is to a location outside of the state. On in-state moves, the law is silent. This potentially means that a parent could move from northern Chicago nearly 300 miles to East St. Louis, and according the provisions in the law, be entirely within his or her right to do so. The only exception would be if the custody order in force specifically prohibited the move.

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Posted on in Children

related adoption, foster parent, Illinois family law attorneyAdoption can be a wonderful opportunity, and one that is particularly appealing to adoptive parents who are actually related to the child. This type of adoption is known as a related adoption or a kinship adoption, and it is among the common method of adoption in the state. In fact, related adoptions are preferred by state agencies, as they are required to give preference to relatives when making adoptive placements for children in their custody. Adoption laws in Illinois specifically require state-sponsored agencies to make reasonable efforts to identify and locate a child&s relative when out-of-home placement is needed.

Federal and State Compensation

In order for a state to be eligible to receive assistance from the federal government for foster care and adoption programs, federal law, under the Social Security Act, requires that agencies within the state "consider giving preference to an adult relative over a non-related caregiver when determining placement for a child, provided that the relative caregiver meets all relevant state child protection standards."

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